Sunday, April 27, 2008

Should Microsoft buy Yahoo? I don't think so.

Across the net I've heard numerous advocates of the proposed deal between Yahoo and Microsoft. Here is why I think it is not a good idea:

1) Yahoo is fantastic the way it is - Yahoo Answers, Yahoo Email, Yahoo Search, Yahoo Games, Yahoo Finance, Yahoo News, My Yahoo, Yahoo Geocities, Yahoo Briefcase and hundreds of other services are all good to outstanding. It has developed an awesome internet culture.

There is a reason it is the world's most popular page.

Of course the reason Google is currently more successful than Yahoo is because of Yahoo's failure to create a proper advertising service like Google. That is Yahoo's single biggest weakness and it has prevented it from really cashing in.

2) Web competition

Currently there are three major services, Google, Yahoo & MSN/Live. Would two be better? No. No it wouldn't.

Of course from a shareholder business perspective this is not the case - big cash deal - better prospects for Microsoft - great. Well no actually - if Yahoo stood alone it could monetize far better rather than be absorbed by a cumbersome giant which hasn't had a good idea in a long time.

Furthermore do we really want one giant company ruling the entire technology field? Wasn't the internet concept based on different ideals.

3) Privacy

None of the current three powerhouses have anywhere close to reasonable privacy policies for user data - the Americans lack a data protection act - Reducing user choice means it is highly likely these companies will be able to collect more about people - for Microsoft this means complete control over a large number of users' computing experience.

4) Corporate culture

Microsoft has traditionally built up a reputation of being against free markets and fair competition - Google too - for all those people who argue this will improve the net, I suspect it will actually restrict innovation in the long-term. What if the two agree on certain standards for websites? How will issues like file sharing and copyright management be addressed? Will search results be influenced? How many people will migrate from Yahoo to Google?

Ultimately though Microsoft is being lazy here. The way to success on the internet is to win the hearts and minds of the users - like it did with MSN messenger or too a lesser extent Hotmail for example. It should stop following and start leading again.

If it has the services and people aren't using them, then after ensuring their product is suitable and getting some customer feedback, perhaps it should spend some of its $40+ billion on some marketing and regaining the trust of the public by committing to respecting its users.

Just a thought.

Just a thought.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Dilbert revamped

For anybody stuck in a mundane job in an office, or even who finds themselves in some pretty paradoxical situations, Dilbert can provide some comic relief. Recently the site has been redesigned so now all the comics are in colour, and there is also a "mashup" feature which allows users to add their own end slide. If you prefer to access the daily strips using rss, this feature has also been added.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Keep your internet experience fresh

I often find myself just visiting the same ten sites more than any of the others. The BBC news site is a good example of one which I just spend a load of time on, even when the quality is not great. It has become habitual. The same could be said about many people's devotion towards Google. The problem with this approach however is that from a web perspective it threatens the diversity of the internet and also affects users because they are then forced to rely on fewer sources.

So recently I've tried breaking such habits. Yahoo for example (assuming Microsoft doesn't get control of them, is an excellent search engine and Ask often gives a different set of results (useful for research purposes. Clusty is another excellent search service which provides an innovative way of narrowing down results. In regard to news did you know that Aljazaeera runs a pretty comprehensive English website. Nobody is saying its going to be unbiased, but surely it can't hurt to learn a different opinion or get a fresh perspective?

Also of course its important to support bloggers and small scale operators. So try breaking some of your mainstream habits and you might find your web experience becomes a lot more exciting. :)

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

My witty republican advert..

In my usual cynical humour I've looked at trying to make fun of the US elections. What do you think of the following joke:

Republican tv advert:
voice-over: "The Democrats only see the world in black (Picture of Obama) and white (picture of Hillary), whilst the Republican party understand there are many shades of grey (picture of McCain)"

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

What do you stand for?

To find out the answer to the question: "What do you stand for?" without an extended period of self-exploration and searching someone has created an online quiz which can be taken within five minutes to tell you. Highly convenient I'm sure you'll agree. According to the test I stand for human rights, but somehow I think that catergory is pretty vague. Give it a try and see if you agree. Note: all complaints should be directed to the "Junk mail free delivery service" and contain a stamped address envelope... and a photograph of you... (preferably round and the size of a standard dart :)


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Excellent BBC mayoral debate

Newsnight recently hosted a live debate between the three main mayoral candidates. It was very interesting and Paxman challenged all of the candidates in several key areas. If you haven't decided who to vote for (or even if you have!) I recommend viewing the video whilst there is still time to see it. Isn't politics grand!?


Sunday, April 06, 2008

Negative campaign from Ken

A top tip from Caesar on politics:

One of the things I've noticed about politics is that the losing side often becomes deeply critical of the opposition without offering something new or different. John Major did this in 1997. Mugabe has done it in Zimbabwe. Now Ken Livingstone is doing this towards Boris.

I disapprove. Negative smear campaigning is really what is not needed in politics. The media does that enough already. To win in politics your message must be positive and visionary but also with a sense of stability and recognition of what works well already.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Horoscopes....which one should I believe?

If your life is anything like mine, external (good) advice could be rather useful and apparently it is available from fortune tellers and astrologers who look to the stars (or the cards) and discover information about you.

My problem is: there are hundreds of sites claiming mystic knowledge, but which service should I believe? One might say I'm due for a love encounter, the other I should back away from new commitments until the planets shift. One might suggest its time for a new career move, the other saying I should be take time before making any hasty decisions.

I think ultimately my dilemma can be summarised by The Simpsons: In one episode Homer opens a fortune cookie saying "you will find happiness with a new love", and then they show the kitchen and the chef says open up the "stick with your wife" barrel.

Maybe I should turn to religion for an answer like Tony Blair suggests. Or would that be shirking my responsibility to take action and make decisions based on rational arguments? I don't know. If anyone has an answer, I'd like to hear about it. ;)